News Update

These lawmakers' districts are at highest risk of flooding. Here's where they stand on the climate crisis

As the climate crisis accelerates, extreme flooding threatens more critical infrastructure in the United States. A recent analysis found 25% of all critical infrastructure in the US — things like hospitals, police stations and power plants — is at risk of being rendered inoperable due to flooding.
But the threat is not distributed evenly, nor is it being approached everywhere with the urgency scientists implore.
Using new flood risk data from First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group, CNN ranked the top 10 congressional districts where critical infrastructure is most at-risk to flooding. Six out of 10 of the House lawmakers that represent those districts voted against the bipartisan infrastructure law, which contains around $50 billion to help make particularly vulnerable communities more resilient to climate disasters like extreme flooding.
Those same six lawmakers also voted against President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which includes more than $500 billion in climate and green energy provisions. If passed, it would be the largest legislative climate investment in US history.
The votes were split along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor of the bills and Republicans voting against. Nine of the lawmakers represent low-lying coastal areas in Louisiana, Florida and Texas. One of the lawmakers represents a district in California at-risk to flooding from atmospheric rivers.
While Republicans have widely continued to cast doubt on the science of climate change, Democrats are more keen than ever to point to the connection between the climate crisis and deadly extreme weather, which costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year.
Here’s how lawmakers who represent America’s most at-risk districts voted on the two critical climate bills and where they stand on the climate crisis.
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District flood risk: 88% of the critical infrastructure in Salazar’s congressional district is at risk of failure due to flooding.
In addition to storm surge from hurricanes, the Miami-area district is particularly susceptible to so-called sunny day flooding caused by high tides combined with sea level rise. The number of days with high-tide flooding on the Southeast Atlantic Coast jumped more than 400% between 2000 and 2020, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: No
Build Back Better Act vote: No
Where Salazar stands on the climate crisis: Salazar’s office didn’t respond to CNN’s request for comment, but she has spoken about the urgency of climate change in the past, despite voting “no” on the bills.
“Climate change is real, and the evidence is right here in Miami,” Salazar’s campaign website reads. “The water level is rising at an alarming rate and coastal areas like Miami Beach may become uninhabitable in a matter of decades, not centuries, unless we work to combat the problem.”
Salazar’s website says she is “working to secure federal funding” to tackle climate change and preserve Miami Beach.
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District flood risk: 78% of the critical infrastructure is at risk of failure in Scalise’s district, where storm surge and heavy rainfall from hurricanes pose the main threats.
Ida in August was the latest major hurricane to make landfall in the Louisiana 1st. Ida produced a storm surge as high as 10 feet in the district and dumped more than 10 inches of rain in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. After surveying the flood damage in Louisiana, US Coast Guard Vice Adm. Steven Poulin called it “catastrophic.”
Scalise’s district is also at significant risk to sea level rise, as land in the New Orleans region is simultaneously sinking due various factors, including a poorly conceived drainage system.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: No
Build Back Better Act vote: No
Where Scalise stands on the climate crisis: Scalise has repeatedly questioned the impact of climate change and whether it is caused by human activity. At a November press conference, Scalise said, “carbon emissions have been around since before man walked the earth.”
Scalise’s office didn’t respond to CNN’s questions for this story. However, when asked by CNN’s Rene Marsh in November to explain his stance on climate, the congressman’s spokesperson Hunter Lovell said Scalise has focused on increasing the amount of funding the state gets from oil and gas producers to rebuild the coast.
“For years, he’s pushed to preserve and increase the annual offshore oil and gas revenue sharing dollars that Louisiana receives for coastal restoration and hurricane protection … which has provided over $400 million to Louisiana in the last four years alone,” Lovell said, calling the funding “critical for protecting our coastal communities from powerful Gulf storms.”
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District flood risk: 74% of the critical infrastructure in Garcia’s district is at risk of failure due to flooding. Extreme rainfall from hurricanes and non-tropical weather systems are key flooding threats for the Texas 29th.
The most devastating example of flooding in Garcia’s district came in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 19 trillion gallons of water on southeast Texas, which scientists later said was roughly three times more likely to occur because of climate change.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: Yes
Build Back Better Act vote: Yes
Where Garcia stands on the climate crisis: In 2020, Garcia introduced a bill that would have required presidential administrations to explain how they planned to handle “increasing hurricane activity due to climate change” in a report to Congress every five years. (The bill would have also prevented the president from dropping nuclear bombs on hurricanes, after former President Donald Trump’s reported inclination to do so.)
“While we must prepare for worse hurricanes in the future, we also need to be planning on how to reduce greenhouse gases that drive climate change and ultimately greater storm intensity,” Garcia said in a 2020 statement on her website.
Garcia did not respond to CNN’s questions for this story.
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District flood risk: 73% the 147 critical facilities in Donalds’ district are at risk of failure due to flooding. The Florida 19th district faces the threat of flooding from hurricanes and sea level rise.
For example, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Donalds’ district in 2017 and generated a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet above ground level from Marco Island to Ft. Myers. Sea level rise is also increasing the potential height of storm surge in the region.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: No
Build Back Better Act vote: No
Where Donalds stands on the climate crisis: Donalds told CNN he believes Congress should deal with climate and flooding as separate issues.
“They’re not tied together and I think putting them together as I believe is the wrong approach,” he said in an interview. “If you pulled out the resiliency projects, infrastructure projects of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, (and) you put on the House floor for a vote, it would pass overwhelmingly. It will pass overwhelmingly in the Senate.”
“I think with where we are with respect to climate is not so much for Congress to act. Every developed nation in the world has to come to an area or a place where we can agree this is the best path forward,” Donalds said. “I think it’s an urgent ‘Congress-must-get-out-of-the-way’ matter, so our economy and our energy suppliers can actually get to a place where we can have sustainable energy, which is more efficient and actually protects our climate, our planet.”
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District flood risk: 70% of the 761 critical facilities in Weber’s district are at risk of failure due to flooding. Threats in this district include hurricane storm surge, non-tropical extreme rainfall and sea level rise.
Southeast Texas is experiencing one of the highest rates of sea level rise in the country, according to NOAA, which estimates that the ocean height in Galveston is rising at a rate equivalent to 2 feet every 100 years.
And the sea level rise exacerbates hurricane storm surge. Hurricane Ike in 2008 was particularly devastating for the Texas 14th district: Gauges failed when Ike made landfall near Galveston, but ground surveys suggest the storm’s surge peaked between 15 and 20 feet.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: No
Build Back Better Act vote: No
Where Weber stands on the climate crisis: Weber did not respond to CNN’s questions for this story, but he supported Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
He reemphasized that support in 2019, when he said in a statement, “Money funneled into the Paris Climate Accord is better spent investing in the private sector, which leads the way in technology and emissions reduction. Withdrawing from the Accord is not about seeking to do harm to the environment. Far from it. Instead, this is about investing in people and innovation. Regulation and false promises serve only to stifle real progress.”
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District flood risk: 69% of the 142 critical facilities in Deutch’s district are at risk of failure due to flooding. Similar to Salazar’s district, the Florida 22nd is threatened by hurricanes, sea level rise and high-tide flooding.
Deutch told CNN that so-called King Tides come every fall in his district — which includes Boca Raton and parts of Palm Beach County.
“There is flooding in our streets on warm sunny days without a rain cloud in the sky,” Deutch said.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: Yes
Build Back Better Act vote: Yes
Where Deutch stands on the climate crisis: Deutch told CNN he believes climate change is an urgent threat that must be addressed, and he wants to see Congress pass a carbon fee to help reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
“These storms we have seen in recent months are supercharged, strengthening at rapid rates over unprecedentedly warm water, and causing unseen levels of destruction. It is beyond urgent: it is now or never. We will miss our chance if we do not take action right now. And the next generation will never forgive us for that.”
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District flood risk: 69% of the 99 critical facilities in Giménez’s Southern Florida district are at risk of failure due to flooding. The district, which includes the Florida Keys, is at risk to sea level rise and hurricane storm surge.
Hurricane Irma devastated the Keys in 2017. A storm surge as high as 8 feet above ground level flowed across the islands and swept homes and businesses from their foundations. The surge also washed roads out such that many buildings were only accessible by boat.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: No
Build Back Better Act vote: No
Rhetoric on climate: Giménez, who did not response to CNN’s questions for this story, told Fox News that even though he thinks infrastructure funding is needed, “there are some things in that $1.2 trillion bill that I just couldn’t vote for” and that the bill would “hurt America.”
Yet in May, Giménez wrote a column in the Orlando Sentinel calling for more funding to deal with climate change and flooding in Florida.
“It’s almost as if we are willing to make our homes unaffordable and our planet uninhabitable for millions of people,” he wrote. “What are we willing to do to confront the changing climate that is destroying our planet and pricing us out of our homes? Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon all of us to invest instead in clean energy and resiliency solutions to deal with the impacts we have created and prevent the worse ones coming down the pipeline.”
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District flood risk: 68% of the 463 critical facilities in Rep. Carter’s district are at risk of failing to flooding.
In addition to the high risk of flooding due to hurricanes like Ida, the Mississippi River runs through the heart of the district, which spills over its banks after heavy spring rains upstream and inundates surrounding areas with several feet of water.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: Yes
Build Back Better Act vote: Yes
Where Carter stands on the climate crisis: Carter told CNN climate change is an urgent crisis that must be addressed.
“The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing our nation and our collective future, and Louisiana is on the front lines,” Carter told CNN in a statement. “Action is not only urgent; there is a rapidly shrinking window of time to act. We must curb emissions and transition to a clean, green economy.”
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District flood risk: 65% of the district’s 124 critical facilities are at risk of failure due to flooding. The California 6th, which includes Sacramento, is susceptible to flooding along the American and Sacramento rivers.
Atmospheric rivers — torrential storms that pull moisture over the West Coast from the Pacific Ocean — pose significant risk to California. The storms, which scientists say are getting worse amid the climate crisis, can cause river flooding, flash flooding and mudslides. Matsui said that in November, her district got more rain in one day than it had received all year. “This type of quick, extreme rain can overload levees that were built for outdated conditions,” she said.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote: Yes
Build Back Better Act vote: Yes
Where Matsui stands on the climate crisis: Matsui has long been outspoken about the need to combat climate change, and she told CNN she’s working to modernize her district’s levees so they can withstand future flooding. The 6th has also been hit hard by California’s prolonged drought.
“As we move forward, we must understand that extreme drought conditions and extreme flood conditions are not separated, and in fact, can be largely intertwined,” Matsui told CNN in a statement. “If we want to slow down the effects of climate change, such as larger and more frequent floods, we must reduce our emissions now.” 
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District flood risk: 63% of the 769 critical facilities in Higgins’ district are at risk of failure due to flooding.
The Louisiana 3rd, which includes Lafayette, is experiencing one of the highest rates of sea level rise in the country, according to NOAA, due to the combination of sinking land and climate change. The ocean height in Higgins’ district is rising at a rate equivalent to around 2 to 3 feet every 100 years.
Voted for bipartisan infrastructure bill: No.
Voted for Build Back Better Act: No.
Where Higgins stands on the climate crisis: Higgins has questioned climate science and the models scientists use to predict future changes, stating without evidence in a 2017 PBS NewsHour interview that the models have been “fraudulently manipulated in order to produce a result.”
As he’s questioned climate science, Higgins has also spoken on the need for infrastructure improvements in the past, saying in the same interview: “To me, I’d much rather be proactive and get involved with improvement of infrastructure as opposed to reactive and spending untold billions of dollars in an emergency procedure.”
Higgins did not respond to CNN’s questions for this story.

Note: Researchers used official estimates of operational flood risk for each type of critical infrastructure, such as airports, hospitals and power stations to determine levels at which facilities become inoperable or unsafe. They compared those to flood levels expected at least once every two years. Analysis not available for Alaska or Hawaii. Percentages rounded to the nearest whole percent.

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